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Rochester: A City of Quality (Part I)

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Rochester: A City of Quality (Part I)

Published 1963

Tour of the area, concentrating on redevelopment and economic activity.

Run time 11:33
Producer Handy (Jam) Organization
Sponsor Rochester Gas & Electric
Audio/Visual Sd, C


Presents a survey of the city of Rochester, N.Y., its history, culture and economic advantages. Explains the role of good planning in the city's development.
Ken Smith sez: The high point of this film occurs at its beginning, when we see Rochester's gaudy "clock of nations" in action in its modern Midtown Plaza. Beyond this, all Rochester seems to offer is "stable people" and "plenty of convenient parking".



Reviewer: Seto-Kaiba_Is_Stupid - - March 30, 2014
Subject: review deleted
review deleted
Reviewer: mstamper - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 4, 2009
Subject: An accurate look at Rochester in 1963
My family moved to Rochester in 1962. My Dad worked downtown (not at Kodak) and my friends and I loved taking the bus downtown, which was a vibrant and exciting place back then. You could take a bus almost anywhere then. Midtown Plaza was great - modern, clean, safe (and free to teenagers!). I left town in 1970 after High School and seldom returned. Rochester is a hollowed-out shell now, a victim of so-called free trade policies that gutted the industrial infrastructure of Rochester and most other large American cities. It also didn't help that Rochester was practically the snow capital of the East in those days. I think this film was made to sell Rochester as a location for new business. I wish that the filmmakers had interviewed more local residents and shown more footage of downtown and of the lake. No matter - it's still a fun trip back to a lost time.
Reviewer: Kanowakeron - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 1, 2006
Subject: Kanowakeron's Response
In response to T.J. Seitzâs lockstep adoration of the local business community, I defy the writer to show where the phrase âMidtown Plazaâ was EVER mentioned in any of my comments. I never referred to âMidtown Plazaâ nor did ever indicate whether I felt âMidtown Plazaâ was a great, modest or foolish creation. Perhaps an overly defensive posture at reading a less-than glowing assessment (and thus, locally ignored) of the Greater Rochester community caused one to lash out with strawman arguments. When confronted with a critical eye, that too, appears to be a Rochester area traitâ¦. just ask Jan Wong of the Globe and Mail who was publicly skewered for her jaundiced review of the area.

Suburban sprawl is not a unique phenomena limited to the Rochester community but it has been consistently proven to be an economic, social and environmental drain on any locality. Some more progressive communities pass ordinances that call for higher density housing to help keep property taxes from spiraling out of control from the additional expense burden it places on suburbia. Sadly, the entitlement mentality of the Rochester area too often decrees that new suburban housing be built on NO LESS than two acres to enhance some concocted town vision.

As for the Rejuvenation By Demolition Theory, perhaps T.J.Seitz is right; letâs just demo the Reynoldâs Arcade, the Sibley, the Wilder, the Powers Buildings as well as the City Hall. Flatten the old relics and slap up some gleaming, sterile glass confections which are far more safe, energy efficient and cost-effective. T.J. Seitz is spot on; What WERE those annoying preservationists thinking years ago when they chose to refurbish and retrofit instead of tear down and rebuilt? I bet that cheesy Art Deco masterpiece, the Times Building, doesnât even have a state of the art health club in it. Call in the Loiseaux demolition team and letâs build another up-ended shoebox with plenty of Low-E glazing.

All âbout the money, eh? Character, identity, uniqueness and visitor attraction can be bought with a catchy on-air jingle or an ad campaign in a city across the lake which took a look, made a major yawn and voted with their wallets.

A community demonstrates its priorities in its most visible public places. Some cities like Seattle WA designate 1% (2006 - $899,101) of their annual budgets to public art work. Some fund beefy preservationist initiatives to maintain older buildings, which separate them from generic cities like Rochester. Some communities pour large segments of public funds into parks and landscaping. Itâs all up to the local community to decide how important a unique character is to them. That in turn, presents a unique attraction to visitors, business and residents.

Strictly regulated historic districts are found across North America and if T.J.Seitz were to venture out of the local comfort zone and actually explore these areas, it would show that some community-wide preservation agendas flat out REFUSE to allow buildings to be torn down. As a dual-citizen (CDN/U.S.), I might suggest a visit to Quebec Cityâs Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville that have buildings dating back 400 years and more⦠and are crammed with visitors year round. Old does not necessary mean decrepit and unusable; if it did, the Powers Building should be razed immediately. Quebec City residents place an enormous value on preserving the uniqueness of their community as much as possible. To be sure, that costs money, but the rewards are diverse, generous and year-round.

As for crying poor, Iâd say if the city of Rochester is able to scoop up enough cash to float an ill-advised, ill-prepared and ill-fated venture such as a No-Faster Ferry to Toronto, it could certainly come up with enough cash to retrofit a classic movie palace or opera house. The money spent on some ersatz theme park of a building like the Ferry terminal ($16 million, less than five years old and collecting cobwebs) could have been directed to re-create a historic exhibit chronicling the history of water-powered mills along the Genesee Riverâ¦. capitalizing on, rather than ignoring, a unique feature of Rochester history. Instead, a gentrified building housing one doomed honky-tonk after another is the example of how to renovate an area of the city and create âinterestâ.

Finally, when Midtown Plaza was built in 1961, I was a seven-year old fatalist naysayer and as such, my soapbox speeches were largely ignored even before the fact. Non-Rochester area readers may wish to make note of the colloquial local term ânaysayerâ which refers to anyone who doesnât gush arias of exaltation and praise over the most incidental of aspects of Rochester area life⦠as there is no distinction made between DEstructive criticism and CONstructive criticism. The locals are incapable of errors in planning or judgment. Just ask them.

âNothing lasts foreverâ?

It sure doesnât if you reduce it to rubble.
Reviewer: T.J. Seitz - favoritefavoritefavorite - November 13, 2006
Subject: Kanowakeron's Comment
I love it when fatalistic naysayers like Kanowakeron get up on their soap boxes long after the fact and point their fingers at government and business leaders for investing in capital/big ticket projects like Midtown Plaza....A lot has happened to the Rochester area and the rest of the world since Midtown's inception. Society is not as innocent now as it was then. Materialism is a simplisitc way of thinking and people bought into it's ideals because they could. Midtown was the first of its kind and paved the path for other similar even more financially successful business projects/ideas locally and nationally. Midtown served it's purpose over the years as a business/retail hub for the City. Midtown's construction was also supported primarlily with private money not taxpayer dollars unlike the Fast Ferry and Renaissance Square. Nothing lasts forever and as anyone who studies public or social policy knows people have been moving their residences away from the center of most American cities as they climb up the social class ladder since cities were created. As Americans moved out of/away from cities and into the suburbs their spending money went with them.

Also when it comes to keeping old falling apart buildings with some historical significance does Kanowakeron want to invest his own money into the refurbishing projects? It costs a lot more money to modernize old outdated buildings up to code than to tear them down and start over. Older buildings were not designed for current HVAC, electrical and safety systems. As much as it sucks unless a city can find private investors who want to maintain/keep older buildings its a better idea to level them rather than let them deterioriate and have someone tresspass, get hurt, sue for neglagence and win.
Reviewer: TravisO - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 7, 2006
Subject: Interesting to see what I've missed
I only moved to Rochester recently, so it was interesting to see what Rochester use to look like, 43yrs ago.

This is definitely a must see for any local Rochesterians.
Reviewer: RadioBilly - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 10, 2005
Subject: The Twilight Zone
What a snapshot from the past!!! No Japanese cars, only 2 Volkswagens made it into the movie. And they were using "ONLY" paper bags for the groceries at the A&P and no scanners.

Where were the black folk? I did not see one person of color. Also, it seemed like everyone and their brothers drove a Chevy. Most of the cast of characters are now pushing up all those flowers the narrator was spouting about.

This is a great movie. You must see both parts. It resembles all the promises of America to provide a wonderful middle class and upwardsly mobile society. Seen here, frozen in time, is a document that will be of utmost value to future archeologists and anthropologists who will, with their best efforts, try to account for a window of time in the American Experience, wherein all living then (1963) actually believed in the "promise" of the future and the indomitable spirit of the American Dream.

The traitors to this dream where still skulking in the wings conspiring with the international bankers, the politicians and the still to be created globalist companies who would carry out the destruction of the dream. Relish this cinematic treat and know that once all the content of "Rochester" and "America" which was reflected in this production was true. The promise was the hope that was in the future for all. Now, 43 years later, that hope is in the past tense and long ago dissipated.

de BillyLaptop
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 16, 2004
Subject: I want to go to Rochester now!... Wait, I've already been there! LOL
TOTALLY overwritten film about the many 'wonders' that Rochester offers the potential person who would want to visit/live there. There are two emphases pointed out here, clean people and plenty of parking.
First the clean people comment. I have never had a film that demonstrated such hidden agendas as this film had. The clean people comments spring up all over this film. Case in point, the scene where shipping is explained. "What kind of products are shipped? CLEAN products, compatible for the community" (as opposed to what?)
The other bizarre thing is it's hammering down that Rochester appears to be the Parking mecca of the world. Every tiny development is emphasised with "and it has plenty of parking!" comment. Yesiree, the overbloatness of cars was in full effect here. (but not chevys Mr Handy?)
As for the film itself, I have no idea of what Rochester was like during the time this was produced, but I was there last year and uhhhh things have changed lol. When I think on it now, there's not a black person in the film (the clean look don't forget!) and there is certainly a huge black population in Rochester... along with the miles and miles of cement.
Strange the very limited mention of Eastman House, since it's one of the top attractions in Rochester. Maybe something against Kodak?
A highly bizarre curio. just like the boy with the overly big granny style apple chewing on his ROchester apple in the film.
Reviewer: Jamie B. - favoritefavoritefavorite - October 9, 2003
Subject: Great Glimpse Into The Past
Rochester: A City of Quality gave a look at the valley surrounding the city. The blending of the outlying surroundings, waterways, farming communities and fields contrast the city that comes in to view through the next scenes.
The heart of the city of Rochester, and probably all cities, is ever changing. This clip shows the progress that continues to go on in regards to building and transportation. The historic factors brought at the beginning of the clip show a slow, soft pace. With the change of times, every mode of transportation was utilized in order to move people. From airports, trains, and of course automobiles, the people of the city are shown adapting to the changing society.
This clip helped put in perspective the way transportation has evolved to fill a need of industry. Oftentimes, I forget the pace that once was just 30 years ago; a much slower time, where the fast rate of transportation was not necessarily foremost on the minds of officials. However, as the cities change, as revealed in this clip, adaptations were made. Fascinating to see the progression of city life, and this gave a wonderful glimpse into the process.
Reviewer: Denis Warburton - favoritefavoritefavorite - December 22, 2002
Subject: Somewhat Boring, Yet Historically Significant
Despite Ken SmithÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs semi-disparaging remarks about this film, there is much more to this film than the admittedly gaudy ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂClock of NationsÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ sequences that bookend the film. Indeed, if one views this ephemeral film in its historical context, it becomes readily apparent that this is much more than a sales film. ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂRochester: City of QualityÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ is a document of urban renewal subsequent to the population shift from the cities to the suburbs, and its anticipated effects.
As weÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂre shown imagery of Rochester at its greenest and best, the narrator repeatedly (with varying degrees of subtlety) tells us that Rochester has come to terms with its past, and is modernizing / adapting itself for the future. To discover what Rochester has come to terms with, one need only look to the sequence beginning at 6:17 in part one. As we tour through the city, the narrator expounds on the purpose of a city and of the surrounding economic area (ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂa place to make a profit, as pleasantly as possibleÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ), and the financial facts of life when it comes to the prosperity of an area. Moving on to pastoral scenes of families alongside waterways, the narrator continues on to tell us how the Erie Canal was once a main travel artery, and with changing times became, in essence, a recreational facility. The underlying message (and parallel) here is clear: while Rochester may have had a certain industrial beginning, it too, like the Erie Canal, must repurpose itself as times change.
The reason why soon becomes clear: because of the automobile, and the highways for them that serve (in spirit) as successors to Erie Canal. The underlying idea here is that just as Rochester was founded on one transportation artery, Rochester must reshape itself to suit the new transportation arteries, and the cars they serve. In terms of the downtown area, the stakes are made clear (at 8:11): ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂTimes change ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ and you either change your city to fit them, or theyÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂll change your city, often unpleasantly. More often, unprofitably.ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ Indeed, as the narrator continues on to tell us, over imagery ostensibly from the opening ceremony for a highway, Rochester has ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂmade its peace with the Automobile. Is it practical to do otherwise? ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ 20th century America is geared to the automobile, and thus is Rochester geared.ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ Rochester is then described as ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ in an obvious comparison to other cities ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ one in which traffic flows quickly, safely, and freely, and in which thereÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs plenty of convenient parking for now and the future. In a society increasingly based around the car, the appeal of an easy drive to Rochester for commuters (and for the employers of commuters) is plain to see.
The film then moves on to further demonstrate its own viability and attractiveness, again differentiating itself from other cities while giving subtle acknowledgment to the problems it, like other cities has. Forty seconds into part two, the narrator makes it clear ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ over shots of several businesses ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ that Rochester is a city with ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂquality people, quality industries, skilled industries and skilled people, clean industries, clean people, stable industries, stable people.ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ With that description we are led to believe that it is a city with a strong economic base (no acknowledgement of businesses closing down or moving to the suburbs) and with a good workforce (well trained, balanced, and employed). Yet, workforce retraining is presented to us under the guise of a preemptive response to ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂtechnological lag.ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ Indeed, the film would lead us to believe Rochester is a city without problems. However, by the filmÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs own subtle admission, Rochester is a city trying to solve its economic downturn. The effects of deindustrialization and decentralization were being felt, and smoothed over.
Indeed, one needs only look at how the film deals with suburbanization ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ the mass exodus from the cities that was made possible by the automobile ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ to see this more clearly. ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂRochester didnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt fight the suburbs or the shopping centers rising to meet suburban needs. It simply capitalized on the things people liked about shopping centers: wide varieties of merchandise, the fun of meeting people, and above all in this day and age, a place to park.ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ As such, Rochester (like other cities) responded by refiguring downtown as a place for business (governmental and otherwise), entertainment, and culture. Thus the mention of the various facilities and the events that take place there, as well as the need for parking.
Indeed, reshaping downtown to accommodate and attract suburbanites ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ namely their automobiles ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ was probably the true motivation Rochester had in reshaping its central core. The sequence beginning at 11:50, in which the narrator lays out RochesterÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs plan to ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂrip out and rearrange streets, and sections of that central core to its hearts content,ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ is a truly harrowing one ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ it truly screams out for inclusion in a program critical of urban renewal. Indeed, in seeing the streets and buildings the planners intend to destroy, one seriously wonders why they would destroy what, for all intents and purposes, looked to be a healthy, thriving area.
The answer seems to primarily lie in the need for the city ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ particularly the downtown area ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ to attract people to the area so that it could economically sustain itself. Like the Market Center in which the ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂClock of NationsÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ resided, it would seem that Rochester (like other cities) didnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt just attempt to attract suburbanites with culture and entertainment, but also with newer, downtown versions of malls, and even apartments. Yet, given the illustrations weÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂre shown of the future Genesee Crossroads, an arid set of monolithic buildings intended to encompass both downtown living and working space, itÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs hard to see what the attraction would be for the average Joe ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ or family for that matter ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ in comparison to the suburbs. Indeed, if an attraction like the ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂClock of NationsÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ is felt necessary to bring people to the downtown area from the suburbs (Why else would it have been created?), it seems to this viewer that RochesterÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs downtown was certainly in something of a precarious economic position. Unfortunately, further commentary on the long term results for Rochester is beyond the scope of this review.
Overall, while ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂRochester: City of QualityÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ may not be the most entertaining film in the Prelinger collection, it certainly has historical significance, least of all for the residents of Rochester, who can see how their city and surrounding countryside looked nearly four decades ago. If you have an interest in urban renewal, I wholeheartedly recommend you check out ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂThe Dynamic American City,ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ which is also part of the Prelinger collection.

For ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂfound footageÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ videomakers: The cinematography on this film is average overall ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ itÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs competently done, but not spectacular. In addition to the sequences noted in my review, there are several worthwhile shots in the film: aerial shots of the city and farmland, shots (from in and outside of a convertible) driving on the highway and in the city, shots of children (farm, petting zoo, Market Center), aerial stills of the inner and outer highway loops, inner city construction (and demolition), a family in their Sunday best leaving their home, suburban shopping plaza, and a shot of men examining a model of what appears to be a nuclear power plant. (The last is rather predictable, as this was a film sponsored by Rochester Gas and Electric Corp.) Additionally, if you are interested in sampling any of the narration, I regret to inform you that there is a music track running under the majority (if not the entirety) of the film.
Reviewer: Toby - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 2, 2002
Subject: Da Bomb!
I haven't seen this movie yet, but I'm sure that it'll be da bomb when I get around to watching it!...
Now I've seen it, and it is da bomb! I give it 4 stars!
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